Take three camping cook books
It’s always good to get a little inspiration – and as a food lover I had to admit I am a bit of an obsessive when it comes to recipes books and am also an avid food magazine reader. My husband still finds it odd that I read recipe books before going to sleep each night.
I thought I’d share my thoughts on some of the best camping cookbooks currently on the market to whet your enthusiasm (and appetite) for cooking up a storm next time you pitch up.
The Camper Van Coast
This is the second book from Martin Dorey, his first The Camper Van Cookbook inspired the TV series One Man and his Camper Van. The guidance on the food and recipes are contributed by Sarah Randall, food director of Sainsbury’s Magazine, and Martin provides plenty of camper van lifestyle content.
Martin is naturally a seaside dwelling creature; he surfs, lives by the coast in the West Country and his obvious love of the great outdoors permeates the book. There is a suitably laid-back chilled out tone to the book – and the ‘in-between bits’ that pepper the book between recipes capture that side of his lifestyle.
He gives ideas about things to do; there are little features on kayaking, visiting a seabird colony and taking a roller coaster ride to inspire the reader to make the most of their time in their camper van - although it’s just as relevant if canvas or caravanning is your thing.
There are 95 recipes, all of which can be cooked on two rings – though many can be done on barbecues too. I particularly like the way the book is divided into seasons. For me, one of the great things about camping in this country is being able to get closer to our seasons and embrace the seasonality of our food such as the different berries in the hedges and the wild garlic on the verges. The fact that this book includes that seasonality in its recipes gets a big thumbs-up from me.
The Spring Time section has Scrambled Eggs with Wild Garlic and Pan Fried Sea Trout with a Lemon and Sea Parsley Salsa. Summer focuses on barbecue food although there’s a few quirky takes on some classics – I loved the Fish and Chips Camper van Style – using crushed cornflakes in place of the batter. The recipes are interesting and inspiring, although possibly not all for the beginner cook.
However, this is also a book that will appeal to lovers of playing in the outdoors and at the beach, as well as lovers of odd facts about our coastline. It can be pretty random – like a list of his friend’s (another Martin) favourite bridges around the country. As a coast-hugger myself, I enjoyed his pick of the best coastal driving routes and there’s even a list of nudist beaches if you want to enjoy true freedom in the outdoors!
If you are looking for straight campsite recipe book – this might not be the one for you, but as the subtitle says it’s about “Cooking, Eating and Living the Life”. I like the slight madness of this book, it captures the kind of random conversations you have around a campfire with a bunch of friends and a few bottles of beer. It made me think about the kind of adventures I have in my van – all this and recipes too. A big thumbs up from me.
Family Camping Cookbook
This is book is more focused on food than lifestyle. It certainly delivers what it says on the cover – it is indeed a family camping cookbook. It certainly feels very authentic – that Tiff and Jim Easton, the authors, have genuinely produced these recipes as part of their family camping, so you feel confident they work.
The photography and images are much more simple then the previous book, it’s not hugely stylised and the book is small enough to shove in the glove compartment and take with you.
This is obviously written by an organised parent as it features a series of meal plans to take you over a weekend. These are divided into menus, for young kids, older kids and vegetarians. Each plan works through breakfasts, lunches and dinners and even comes with a shopping list – a really useful touch.
For many people this kind of pre-planning for camp meals works wonders, although I have to admit that I tend to be a bit more free form, and like to use the local stuff when I am camping rather than buy it all in advance. But I can see how this kind of organisation would work brilliantly for many families.
The book is divided into three sections: Quick Escapes, Country and Coast.
All the recipes in the quick escape section are things that have a short list of ingredients, need little planning and are quick and easy to cook if you arrive late on a campsite. Recipes include Chicken noodle Soup, Spanish Tortilla, and the Campfire Cassoulet - a perfect put- it-all-in-a-pot, thick sausage and bean stew.
The Coastal section obviously has plenty of seafood recipes but also summery and zesty fruity ideas too; grilled fish and smoky aubergine salad, Mediterranean butterflied lamb, and there are some interesting twists fruit kebabs with mint and black pepper syrup. There are also useful little sections on how to butterfly a leg of lamb or how to gut a fish.
Many dishes have international influence too, from Mexican, Italian, and Spanish. In the Country section I liked the sound of Shin of Beef Potjie - a South African stew cooked outdoors in a big iron pot. It might not look flash, but there are a great range of really interesting recipes in this book – all of which seem genuinely possible to cook over a fire or on your gas hob or barbecue – and isn’t that what a good camping cookbook as all about?
Guyrope Gourmet – A Camping Cookbook
Don't be concerned that this is all too fancy. The tone is fun, chatty and realistic. As Josh says – there is no need to be precious about the book – it is designed to be used, spill oil on it, smear tomato paste across your favourite recipe or fan your flames of the barbecue with it. And it's also a convenient size to take along with you.
There are an impressive 90 recipes here, divided into meal types: breakfasts, tapas, salads, pasta, meat and poultry. While there are plenty of simple dishes in the book; grilled halloumi with lime, Tortilla, and Dusted Chicken Breasts, there are also more ‘technical’ dishes, with longer lists of ingredients for a more involved cook up such as a Vegetable Biryani or a Middle Eastern Lamb with stew with shredded ginger and fennel (which is delicious).
It's great for inspiration - I recently made the Stilton and Leek soup – using up a local blue cheese I’d, the soup was so simple, and delicious and a perfect comfort for a bit of autumnal camping.
The ‘Gourmet’ theme is carried through to suggestions for drinks to compliment the meals. I’m not sure how many of us are actually that organised on a camping trip, (I’m often grateful for a mug of warm white wine) but it’s a quirky addition all the same.
The recipes in this book are really clear and easy to follow, and the photography of Josh and his family on their camping trips keep it real and fun. I also love the little stories that go with the recipes too – where he cooked it or who gave him the recipe. This cook book certainly makes a good camping companion.